sexta-feira, maio 09, 2014

Giovanni: "It is very important to guide people to understand and develop their own talents"

When we need to talk about education, pedagogy and even religion, Giovanni is a safe bet. After seven months of intense work in ALEM, he already has some practical experience that he wanted to share with us. And now we want to share it with you. Here it is what he has to say.

- Tell us about your experience with the scouts in Italy, when and how did your bond with the group start?
It was in 1995, when I was eight years old. At that time my parents knew that the scout group in my town was present and strong. There were many family friends volunteering there as chiefs and some of my friends as well, so my parents subscribed me saying that I was going to learn a lot. And they were right. With the scouts I matured to be a person useful to the others, dedicating my time to give a service to the community. During the 17 years I was part of the scouts, I participated in a wide variety of activities going from group games to handcrafts workshops and meetings with representatives from many civil offices, and I also became a chief myself, planning and organizing short and long-term activities for the kids. Although I quit in 2012 and I am no longer officially part of the team, I still continue collaborating with them, supporting the chiefs, suggesting them activities and even cooking for the children during the summer camps!

- What have you learnt in your experience with them [the scouts]?
Well, first of all, the spirit of service, which actually is what brought me here to do EVS. But also teamwork and mediation skills, ability to do many things even with very essential instruments, high tolerance for kids and, above all, love for education. I think that it is very important to guide people to understand their own talents and put them on advantage to everybody. And I am putting everything into practice here in Portugal!

- What are the challenges, difficulties and satisfactions of working with young people?
My experience is mainly with children, and I must say that their process of learning is fast and substantial, with pretty good results. The problem with them is that normally the groups are quite big, and as they are not self-sufficient you need to keep an eye on them all the time. With teenagers the problem is that even if the attention they need is less constant, it is stronger and more difficult because they have more complicated and enigmatic problems, so it is not easy to understand them and help them to find solutions. But you have the chance to see them growing up, dealing with those problems and conquering them, so it is comforting. And with the kids you gain lots of hugs, which is a very big recompense.

- What are the differences working with youngsters in Portugal and in Italy? And between the education system in both countries?
There is not a big difference, and I think that it is above all a social difference. I've noticed that in Portugal there is less social inequality than in Italy, where we have to deal with families without financial problems and others with huge difficulties, even if they work hard. In Portugal there are more people at the same level, the situations are more balanced. Regarding the education system, in both countries it is seriously underfunded, they aren't receiving enough money at all. In Italy we have stronger teachers but an old structure that should be reformed. In Portugal the structure is better while it is more dynamic, but it is inefficient because many schools are not provided with enough professors. There are holes in the kids' timetables just because there are not professors to cover them. For me, the solution in both cases it would be to increase the funds destined to the education and a continuous quality control to the teachers and the schools.

- What is your view about the education for affection and its importance in the education systems?
For me, it is the education about how to live a love life in the healthiest possible way, oriented to give the students the best knowledge relating to the essential elements of the life with a partner. They can learn about how to treat a partner, how to face their sexual life, which are the differences between both genders are and how to avoid stereotypes, fighting against the wrong simplification that society presents and reinforces. I think it is very important because it is a way to guarantee to all teenagers the possibility to deal with the subject, specially because you cannot trust all parents to be good enough or willing to give that kind of education. So, from my point of view, it should be present in the education systems, which remains still reluctant to teach anything related with sex. In that sense, they should be updated to include this kind of education in their planning.

- As a young and engaged person linked with religion, what is your vision of it in our days, in our context?
There still is an old way to understand religion as something related to prohibitions, which makes it to be considered as incompatible with many of the current issues people are worried about, when in fact it should be an instrument to improve. Not only to improve things but also to grow individually, being honest and spiritual. What Jesus taught us should be useful to progress personally and to engage others to develop a community where honesty, fraternity and mutual help are the essential values. There are a lot of people disillusioned by the oldest generations' closed way of understanding religion, but I think that the Church is now working in changing that status. They are trying to change the idea people have about them as a head of power and wish to become a guide to the people as citizens of the society who can get a spiritual evolution investing in themselves from their singularity. A spiritual development that don't depend anymore on the rules and the forbiddings of the Church but on the own moral code of each person.

- Which do you think is the link between the humanist legacy religion left in Europe and education in the different countries?
Religion in European culture is a matter of tradition, and because of that some education systems that haven't been renovated yet are still bearing weak or strong elements of religion. In Italy, for example, we have a lesson about religion once a week which is meant to educate kids about Catholic religion. But the actual content of the lesson is left to the teacher, who in many cases teaches about different religions and tolerance, but is up to their sensibility. In the case of implementation of the education for affection, for instance, it is not religion itself that puts obstacles, but the old way to see religion and specially Christianity held by powerful people and a large chunk of the aging population in Europe and that makes changes difficult. The humanistic legacy of religion in Europe is still strong and this should evolve in many ways.

- And about your cultural taste, which book, film and music would you recommend us?
A film: The Blues Brothers, by John Landis.
A sound: La Donna Cannone, by Francesco De Gregori.
A videogame: Super Mario, by Nintendo. 

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